Under the Radar’s Holiday Gift Guide 2019 Part 8: Toys | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Under the Radar’s Holiday Gift Guide 2019 Part 8: Toys

Kid-Friendly Goodies from Hasbro, Disney, LEGO, Kidrobot, and More

Dec 10, 2019
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Welcome to Part 8 of Under the Radar's Holiday Gift Guide 2019. This one is centered on toys. Some of us at Under the Radar have been parents for several years now and so with our Holiday Gift Guide each year we set out to write about some fun toys and other gifts for kids and parents. If you have kids (or are an uncle, aunt, godparent, etc.), perhaps you will find a perfect gift below. Stay tuned for another part of the Gift Guide, which will feature family friendly DVDs/Blu-rays, books, and board games.

In terms of our Holiday Gift Guide 2019 we have already posted a guide about video games and two drinks related guides, one for coffee, beer, and wine and another for cocktails. Then we posted part one of our collectibles guide. After that we posted part 5 of our 2019 guide, which was about technology. Part 6 was the first part of our DVD/Blu-ray guide. And then part 7 was about board games. And stay tuned for more guides we'll be posting on music box sets and reissues, more collectibles, more DVDs/Blu-rays, and books and graphic novels. And don't forget that Under the Radar print magazine subscriptions also make a great gift. Plus donating to the charity of your choice in the name of the gift receiver is also a good way to go.

 

Avengers Infinity War Spider-Man Phunny Plush (Kidrobot)

RRP: $11.99

Spider-Man has had a good couple of years. In April 2018 he appeared as a pivotal character in Avengers: Infinity War. Last December the acclaimed animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse opened and it ended up winning the Oscar for Best Animated Film and has been appearing on various Best Movies of the Decade lists. Then this year he appeared in two hit live action movies, April's Avengers: Endgame (now officially the biggest movie of all time) and June's Spider-Man: Far From Home (which is now the biggest Spider-Man movie of all time). All were hits with critics and audiences. There was briefly a worry that Spider-Man would have to exit the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to a disagreement between Disney (who make all the MCU movies) and Sony (who have the rights to Spider-Man), but that hiccup was thankfully resolved. An Into the Spider-Verse sequel has been announced for release in 2022 and another film starring Tom Holland as the hero has been announced for 2021. In other words, it's been a good time to be a Spider-Man fan.

Celebrate this golden age of the Wall Crawler with Kidrobot's Phunny Plush of Spider-Man from Infinity War. It's 7-inch tall and features the fancy new costume Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) gave to young Peter Parker, the Iron Spider Armor. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Avengers Infinity War Thanos Phunny Plush (Kidrobot)

RRP: $11.99

Isn't Kidrobot's Thanos plush cute! No matter that he wiped out half of all life in the universe with a snap of his finger. He's so cuddly! And besides, The Avengers brought everyone back. Sure, it was traumatic and all the people snapped away skipped ahead five years while their remaining friends and family members mourned and moved on with their lives. But in this form Thanos is totally harmless. The 7-inch tall plush sports the deadly Infinity Gauntlet on his left hand. Don't even try to get it off him (no really, it doesn't come off this plush). By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Captain Marvel Phunny Plush (Kidrobot)

RRP: $11.99

Kidrobot's Phunny Plush series also features Captain Marvel. Brie Larson immortalized the hero in this year's hit movie, the first in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be fronted by a female superhero. The six-inch tall plush features Carol Danvers in her iconic red, blue, and yellow costume, rather than the green one she initially wears in the film. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Coraline with Button Eyes Phunny Plush (Kidrobot)

RRP: $14.99

Much was made of the return of 3D at the start of the century, starting around 2003, but few films have done all that much with the format. Many aren't even filmed in 3D to start with and are converted after the fact. 2009's Coraline, however, was one of the movies to really get 3D right. Henry Selick of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame wrote and directed the stop-motion animated film, which was based on a 2002 novel by Neil Gaiman. The PG-rated dark fantasy is kind of a horror movie for kids. Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is an 11-year-old girl who finds a passageway to a parallel world via a secret door in her new house. There she finds what at first appears to be an idealized version of reality, but soon it takes a dark turn. In the "Other World," as it's called, buttons are sewed over people's eyes, trapping their souls. The scenes where Coraline crawls through the passageway to the "Other World" and where she is later trapped on a giant spider web truly looked stunning in 3D in a way that they simply wouldn't in 2D, thus making full use of the technology to give depth to the images, rather than just having scary things jump out at the audience. Coraline was a financial and critical success, doing much better at the box office than Selick's previous film, 1996's James and the Giant Peach. Kidrobot's Coraline Phunny Plush is both adorable and creepy, featuring the young heroine with button eyes. It features real sewn on buttons and embroidered details and is seven inches tall. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Disney Princess Enchanted Collection Subscription - Jasmine (Deluxe) (Disney)

SRP: $74.99 per box

The Disney Princess Enchanted Collection Subscription is a lovely subscription service for young fans of Disney Princesses. Each box is themed to one princess and comes with a costume, a storybook, stickers, a letter and video greeting from the princess, and additional items.

One of the highlights of this year's Disney live action remake of Aladdin was Naomi Scott's performance as Princess Jasmine. The 26-year-old British actress wasn't that well known to mainstream audiences, despite appearing as the Pink Ranger in 2017's poorly received Power Rangers movie and the short-lived TV series Terra Nova, but most reviewers singled out Scott and her future career seems bright. Jasmine's Enchanted Collection box has the other items mentioned above, but also includes Aladdin's lamp and a stuffed animal of her tiger Rajah. Also available are boxes for Tiana, Ariel, Moana, Rapunzel, Mulan, Belle, and others. There's also a more economical option for $47.99 that still has a costume, storybook, and stickers, but doesn't include some of the additional items, such as the toys. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Godzilla Vinyl Mini Figure Series (Kidrobot)

RRP: $9.99 each

Godzilla turned 65 this year and is surprisingly still going strong. Surprising, because there's really not all that much to the character: he's a giant lizard who comes out of the depths of the ocean to destroy some cities, but it usually turns out he's trying to save humanity from an even worse monster. He's come a long way from just being a guy in a rubber suit stepping on model tanks. There have been 35 Godzilla films so far, with 32 made in Japan, and three made by Hollywood. The Hollywood films this decade include 2014's well-received Godzilla and this year's Godzilla: King of the Monsters (which was admittedly a bit ridiculous and was a box office disappointment), with Godzilla vs. Kong due out next November (recently pushed back from its original release date next March). And the character is alive and kicking in Japan, with a recent trilogy of anime films set in the far future, 20,000 years after Godzilla has taken over the Earth, and 2016's live action Shin Godzilla, which actually won Best Picture at Japan's equivalent of the Academy Awards.

Kidrobot are celebrating all this with their Godzilla Vinyl Mini Figure Series. All are blind-boxed, so you don't know which version you'll get. You could end up with one of the several Godzilla ones, including one modeled after his first appearance in 1954 and another reflecting his Shin Godzilla look, or you could get Rodan, Mothra, Mechagodizlla, or one of the mystery figures. Order 24 to get a nice display box. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Hello Sanrio Micro Vehicle Blind Bag Series (Kidrobot)

RRP: $9.99 each

Hello Kitty has really endured since the Japanese character's creation in 1974. Even though none of her multiple cartoons have never really been considered classics of children's television (at least not outside of Japan), as a branding icon she is exemplary, with her image appearing on tens of thousands of products over the decades, from toys to clothing to purses to wine to cafes to even airplanes, with various passenger planes from Taiwan's EVA Airways featuring Hello Kitty. She is the best-known character from the Japanese company Saniro, but they also have plenty of other cute anthropomorphic animal characters. Kidrobot has a series of blind bag collectibles featuring Sanrio characters and the latest is their Hello Sanrio Micro Vehicle Blind Bag Series line. Each bag features a random little rolling food truck inspired by Hello Kitty and other Saniro characters. They each come with a collectible matching cotton pouch. Food trucks include: Hello Kitty Milk Truck, Keroppi Rice Ball Food Truck, Dokidoki Yummychums, Tuxedosam Ice Cream Truck, Badtz-Maru Sushi Truck, and our favorite, Gudetama Lazy Egg Carton Food Truck. These would be perfect stocking stuffers for Saniro fans young and old. Or if you order 24 of them, then you also get a display box. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Marvel Avengers Iron Man Hall of Armor (LEGO)

RRP: $59.99

Iron Man is the movie that started it all. When Marvel Studios went to start the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008 they didn't launch it with their biggest character, partly because they couldn't as Sony had the rights to Spider-Man and 20th Century Fox had the rights to Wolverine and the other X-Men. Still, they could've gone with Captain America or Hulk. Instead they wisely picked Tony Stark and Iron Man, who admittedly wasn't a completely obscure comic book character. And probably the smartest thing Marvel did was cast Robert Downey Jr. as Stark, the actor's formidable screen presence, acting chops, and manic comic timing easily inhabiting the magnetic tech rebel character.

Stark's cinematic story came to an end in this year's Avengers Endgame, released by Disney (we won't mention any spoilers, just in case you still haven't seen the biggest movie of all time). LEGO's Marvel Avengers Iron Man Hall of Armor set recreates a section of Stark's headquarters that features his lab and where he keeps his various versions of armor. It includes four different Iron Man armors: Iron Man MK 1, Iron Man MK 5, Iron Man MK 41, and Iron Man MK 50. There are also two Outriders mini-figures for Iron Man to fight, mindless alien soldiers deployed by Thanos during the final battle of Avengers Infinity War. Also included are a bigger robot that Iron Man can get in and a Tony Stark head (with hair). There are 524 pieces in all and it's recommended for ages seven and up. Any Marvel and/or LEGO fan, young or old, should be into it. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

My Little Pony Oh My Giggles Pinkie Pie (Hasbro)

RRP: $24.99

Here's a toy with its own laugh track, and it's not even from a sitcom. Pinkie Pie, a favorite of My Little Pony fans, giggles away, shaking with joy. It's a ticklish toy. Tickle her front, just under her head, for the giggling to begin. She also has a sensor in her mouth, wave your hand in front of her face to also get some giggles. This cute toy is recommended for ages three and up and certainly younger girls will probably appreciate it more than older ones, although really anyone who is a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic will get a kick out of this silly toy. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

My Little Pony Rainbow Tail Surprise Collection Pack (Hasbro)

RRP: $29.99

With most toys, unless it's intended for the bath or other water play, you likely don't want to submerge it in water. At first glance, the My Little Pony figures in the Rainbow Tail Surprise Collection Pack don't seem like water toys, but they actually are. Dip them in water and the plain white tails magically transform into different rainbow colored tails. The collection includes six figures and is based on the 2019 TV special My Little Pony: Rainbow Roadtrip. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington with Chair Coffin Doll (Diamond Select Toys)

RRP: $74.99

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a dual-purpose holiday classic: it's essential viewing at both Halloween and Christmas. Henry Selick may have directed the film, and deserves a lot of credit, as does Caroline Thompson who wrote the screenplay, but The Nightmare Before Christmas definitely has all the hallmarks of producer Tim Burton, who created the characters and came up with the story (so much so that it's also sometimes titled as Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas). The film was only a modest hit at first, making $50 million in its initial theatrical run in 1993. But since then it has spawned a mini merchandising empire, with books (including a very impressive pop-up book), comic books, video games, toys, T-shirts, Halloween costumes, and any number of other products. And now added to that is Diamond Select Toys' The Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington with Chair Coffin Doll. It's a handsome 16-inch tall doll, clad in a real cloth costume. He comes with a suitably gothic looking chair and is packaged in a cool coffin box. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Pix Perfect Deluxe Pixel Art Kit (Pix Perfect)

RRP: $39.99

Pix Perfect's Deluxe Pixel Art Kit is like a more modern and more sophisticated Lite-Brite. Instead of the plastic pegs of Lite-Brite, Pixel Art uses different colored sequins for which to make fun and beautiful art. The set comes with one pixel board, 11 different sequin pixel colors (with 400 sequins of each color), and seven different holographic pixel colors (again, with 400 of each). There's also a booklet with 54 different design ideas, including various animals, a submarine, a superhero, a lighthouse, a unicorn, The Eiffel Tower, and more. But more importantly kids aged six and up can let their creativity free and come up with any design they like. It's a STEM authenticated toy, making it great for budding artists. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Snap Circuits Arcade (Elenco)

RRP: $68.50 

As a 30-something-year-old adult who's had a fascination with electronics and gadgetry my whole life, the Snap Circuits line is just the sort of learning toy that I would have dreamed of playing with as a kid. Fortunately having children (or nieces and nephews) gives us the opportunity to vicariously live through their more technologically advanced childhoods. In a nutshell, the Snap Circuits line offers kids the opportunity to build hundreds of different electronic projects by building circuit boards out of parts that snap together almost as easily as LEGOs. There's no soldering or exposed electrical, so you don't have to worry about them accidentally zapping themselves when they take it upon themselves to construct their own projects when you're not around.

A goldmine for STEM learning expertly disguised as a plaything, Snap Circuits comes in several different levels of core sets that increase in complexity. These range from the introductory Snap Circuits Jr.-the set that introduced me to the line, courtesy of an eight-year-old niece who's become obsessed with assembling circuits-through Snap Circuits Extreme, which includes 750 projects built around everything from solar cells to making your own FM radio. Snap Circuits are designed to grow with your kid: if desired, you can start with the Jr. kit and purchase upgrade packs to the next level as they learn.

Their line includes quite a few specialized sets as well, from the Lights set-which allows your kid to build light shows that sync to music-to a Motion set of physics-driven projects. One of the ones we were most excited about is Snap Circuits Arcade, which guides kids through building more than 20 different, playable games. Even from an adult's angle, these sets are really, really cool-not to mention, an amazing way to help prep our kids for an increasingly science- and technology-driven future. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Mystery Minis (Funko/Fun.com)

RRP: $5.99 each

Not only is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse perhaps the best Spider-Man film, it's also one of the finest superhero movies of the decade and one of the greatest animated films of all time. It even won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, beating Incredibles 2, among others. It was a financial success, but only made around a quarter of the $1.2 billion Incredibles 2 made worldwide. Then Sony wisely put it on Netflix, allowing millions more to discover it. And thankfully a sequel is due out in 2022, with a Spider-Women spinoff in the works, as well as some potential Spider-Verse TV series. Funko's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Mystery Minis are three-inch little figures from the movie. They are all blind-boxed, so you don't know which character you are going to get. There are 10 figures in all, including Gwen Stacey/Spider-Woman, Miles Morales/Spider-Man, Kingpin, Peter B. Parker/Spider-Man, Prowler, Spider-Ham, Peni Parker, Spider-Man Noir, and more. These would make great stocking stuffers for young Spider-Verse fans. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs Mini Figure Series (Kidrobot)

RRP: $9.99 each

Sing it with me: "We're tiny, we're tony/We're all a little looney/And in this cartoony/We're invading your TV." Those were the opening lines to the theme song to Tiny Toon Adventures. If you're of the right age, then you possibly adored the animated show, which aired from 1990 to 1992. It was smart enough for teenagers and adults to get it (in fact the first episode premiered in as a prime-time special on CBS, even though the show otherwise aired on daytime TV), but silly enough for kids to enjoy.

The premise was simple enough: the next generation of Looney Tunes characters go to Acme Looniversity together. It was all in the execution, however, as the show had fun parodying Star Wars; Howdy Doody; An American Tail; The Twilight Zone; Star Trek; Superman; Indiana Jones; The Odd Couple; Who Framed Roger Rabbit; Fantasia; Sherlock Holmes; Honey, Shrunk the Kids; The Wonder Years; Jeopardy; I Love Lucy; Super Mario Bros.; The People's Court; and even Citizen Kane (and that's all just in the first season). Steven Spielberg was one of the producers of the show, which might help explain its brilliance, and it won several Daytime Emmys. Tiny Toon Adventures was followed by another Spielberg-produced, Looney Tunes-related show, Animaniacs, which aired from 1993 to 1998 and is scheduled to be revived with a new show next year on Hulu.

It's a good time then for Kidrobot's Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs Mini Figure Series. They are three-inch tall vinyl figures that are blind boxed so that you never know which one you'll get. Not only does the series include characters from Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, but also from the related show Pink and the Brain. There are 14 in all to collect at $9.99 a piece or you can order 24 and also get them in a display box. They would make great stocking stuffers for younger Gen-Xers, older Millennials, or current kids who have since discovered these shows on Netflix or YouTube. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Toy Story Buzz Lightyear Interactive Talking Action Figure and Toy Story Woody Interactive Talking Action Figure (Disney)

RRP: $32.95 each

A wonderful aspect of the Toy Story film series is that the toys you can buy at home are pretty close to what you see in the movies. Generally with movie tie-in toys they don't look much like their cinematic counterparts, but the characters in Toy Story are toys. And while there have been some familiar toys used in the films, such as Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, many of the most memorable characters have been original creations that have since become toy staples in the real world. Two cases in point are Woody the Sheriff and Buzz Lightyear. If it wasn't for Toy Story, 21st century kids wouldn't exactly be clamoring for an old fashioned cowboy toy with a pull string in its back, but Woody is beloved (thanks in part to Tom Hanks' wonderful voice acting). It's hard to believe that the first Toy Story movie turned 24 this year. Kids born in 1995 have grown up and graduated from college in that time, with Woody and Buzz likely always part of their lives.

After a nine-year gap since the masterpiece that was Toy Story 3, this year we were treated to Toy Story 4, which was almost as good. That also meant that Disney put out a whole load of the new toys connected to the Pixar series. Two highlights of the new line include the Buzz Lightyear and Woody Interactive Talking Action Figures. Each are approximately the size they seem to be in the movies, with Woody around 15 inches tall and Buzz around 12 inches high. Woody has 12+ phrases and sounds when you pull his string. Buzz has 10+ phrases and sounds when you push his buttons and also lights up. But perhaps the coolest feature is the Toy Detector, meaning that Buzz and Woody will talk to each other when brought close together. Also available are Bo Peep, Jessie, and even Forky, a new addition with Toy Story 4, a confused character made from scratch out of a spork by the little girl Bonnie, one who has already become a favorite of kids and fans. By Mark Redfern (Buy Buzz Lightyear here. Buy Woody here.)

 

Transformers BotBots Toy Series 2 and 3 Eight-Packs (Hasbro)

RRP: $14.99 

Transformers have typically turned from robots into cars, planes, and other vehicles. Okay, Soundwave transformed into a microcassette recorder and Megatron became a handgun, both somehow able to shrink as they transformed, and of course the Dinobots became robot dinosaurs, but they were all outliers. How about a Transformer that turns from a robot into a... slice of pizza? What?! Or what about ones that turn into donuts, pianos, trees, clowns, drum sets, backpacks, teddy bears, soccer balls, bunches of grapes, keytars, pacifiers, baby bottles, rubber duckies, and even moldy sandwiches? No, we're serious. The Transformers BotBots series are cute mini Transformers that turn from robots into all these quirky items and more. They are available in individual blind packs, perfect as a stocking stuffer, or in eight-packs. If you get an eight-pack you can see seven of the figures, but one remains a mystery hidden figure. These would work for both Transformers fans and kids not so into the "robots in disguise," but would appreciate this sillier variation. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Transformers Collaborative Ghostbusters Ecto-1 Ectotron (Hasbro)

RRP: $39.99

It's a Transformer that turns from the Ecto-1 Cadillac car in Ghostbusters into a robot named Ectotron who is also a paranormal investigator. Let us say that again, it transforms from the car in Ghostbusters! Is there anything cooler than that? Need we say more? Well, it comes with a little Slimer as well. Ghostbusters and Transformers both debuted in 1984 and are celebrating their 35th anniversaries this year, so this is a timely mash-up, especially with a new Ghostbusters movie due out next year and the Ecto-1 prominently featured in its first teaser trailer. There's also a Ghostbusters and Transformers crossover comic book from IDW that ties into this toy, plus a Ghostbusters-themed Optimus Prime toy.

This is a perfect gift for pretty much anyone who was a kid in the mid-1980s. And may we humbly suggest other Transformers collaborative figures that could be made featuring other famous 1980s vehicles: KITT from Knight Rider, the DeLorean from Back to the Future, the van from The A-Team, the helicopter from Airwolf, and the Batmobile from the 1989 Batman film. But regardless, this Ecto-1 Transformer is one of the coolest geek-friendly toys of the year. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

UglyDolls Dance Moves Moxy (Hasbro)

RRP: $39.99

This year's UglyDolls movie may not have been particularly well received by critics or audiences, but that doesn't change the fact that the Uglydolls toy line it was based on remains super cute. David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim created the plush toys, which debuted in 2001, and have been ubiquitous ever since, with an animated TV series in the works at Hulu. To tie into all this, Hasbro has produced the UglyDolls Dance Moves Moxy. Moxy was the main character in the movie and was voiced by Kelly Clarkson. It's a very interactive toy that has three modes: Party Mode, Heart Mode, and Reporter Mode. In Party Mode it sings "Couldn't Be Better," one of Clarkson's songs from the UglyDolls movie, and dances. Wave your hand in front of her face and she'll also talk to you. In Heart Mode she gives words of encouragement. Reporter Mode is perhaps most interesting, as Moxy interviews you. This doll is recommended for ages four and up and is far from ugly. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

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